So, my blogging has been sporadic this week and well…I had better things to do. Here are the highlights.
My story was critiqued. It actually got a better response than I expected, considering my own low opinion of it (which is why I am very glad that I did not succumb to the impulse to shy away and save myself the embarassment). However, I think that the best way to handle this story will be with a total rewrite (and I will use the original document to mine for good phrases, paragraphs, etc). But I did get some great advice on how to handle such a thing.
My conference with Joe and Gay went great. We mostly just shot the shit about where I saw myself going as a writer and the state of modern sci-fi. I really like the both of them alot. They’re a very comforting presence. I got the impression from them that writing is just a skill and a job, like being a lathe-operator. You work at it and you work at it and eventually you good. It’s not something to cry about or obsess over.
Or perhaps I am just projecting, since this week I recieved Clarion Insight #24
Basically, I was thinking about what I plan on doing when I get back from Clarion. And I realized that I don’t really want to publish a novel or even attempt to make a living off of writing anytime soon. Until I went to Clarion I had been having these tragically romantic images of living in a garret and writing. I now realize that this is crap. I’m not saying that something like that would not be a good idea for other people. It just would not be a good idea for me. I am not the kind of person that would thrive in a garret.
At heart, I am a loner. This surprises people sometimes, since I am friendly, etc. But when I am given my druthers, I can easily spend seven straight days in my house, going outside only to walk the dog, and talking to no living people except my parents. Clearly, this is not a healthy way to live and I am not anxious to embark on a career that encourages this sort of behavior.
Furthermore, I’m not very interested in writing a novel. I love short fiction. I’ve probably read three-four hundred short stories (not including Clarion) in the past year, easily. I have been systemically working my way through anthologies in a way that is somewhat frightening. And right now, I’m really interested in seeing what I can do with the short story form. I don’t want to tie myself down with a novel.
Thus, when I return home I plan on settling down for the long haul. I’m going to write every day. I’m going to submit to the top markets. I’m going to really strive to write better stories and start to dig deep into the guts of what makes a good story. And, concurrently, I’m going to start thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, since that is a decision that I’ve been putting off for awhile. In some ways, the fantasy of being a famous writer has even helped me to avoid this decision (without really helping my writing much)
I know that I want to have a job that requires me to interact with people regularly, one that allows me to see new places, and challenges me. Right now, I’m sort of thinking about pursuing print journalism. I have been a staff writer for the Stanford Daily for the past year. It has been incredibly stressful (goddammit do I hate deadlines). But I don’t beleive I have ever failed to turn in a story (though it might not be the one I was assigned), by the time it was needed. I’ve also talked to some amazing people and learned some intensely fascinating things (I know more about the Gospel of Judas than you could shake a stick at). So I’m thinking about really starting to put some more effort into that and letting alot of the other stuff I do (besides writing), fall by the wayside.
Now, let me state again, I am not announcing my attention to become a Clarion burnout. I have merely come to the realization that I don’t think I’m ready to become a full-time writer (even if I was good enough to be one). In 5-10 years, once I’ve stormed the bastions of the pro-level magazine world and sacked them mercilessly, I might think differently.
That was the end of Clarion Insight #24
I called it #24 because I think that this is only one of a whole bunch of insights (about writing and whole variety of other things) that I’ve gained. Clarion has been a first for me in so many ways, and I think that I came here at exactly the right point in my career. To date, I’ve accrued 175 or so rejections (a number that startles me) and written 53 stories. I had a decent, intuitive idea of how alot of things work. Clarion has allowed me to bridge the gap between intuition and a well thought out, well-reasoned approach to those same questions. I honestly think I’ve skipped years of fumbling in the dark by coming here.
But in any case, there will be a deeper accounting of these insights a few weeks after I leave. We still have two weeks left. They will be stressful and tough, but if they’re even half as useful as what’s come behind, then they’ll have been exactly as useful on a per-week ratio as the four weeks that we just had, which means that the benefit/stress-work ratio will be much lower which means…aww fuck it.